BDC Venture Capital took home the 2013 Canadian Startup Awards prize for Venture Capital Firm of the Year, handily beating out runner-up Omers Ventures.
i sat down—virtually—with Jérôme Nycz, the firm's Executive VP, to find out what's in store for Canada's largest VC firm in 2014.
"2014 looks really exciting," said Nycz, sounding more than a little like a coach during training season. "The team is very geared up and we're firing on all cylinders."
He explained BDC's three-pronged approach to investing: the internal team sinks investment dollars into IT, energy/cleantech and health tech opportunities, while a second team manages BDC's $430 million Fund of Funds investment portfolio. It's a key strategy for BDC to leverage the domain expertise housed within these other funds, rather than trying to stock shop full of experts in every possible field. A third team, called Strategic Investments and Initiatives, is the company's exploration arm, tasked with investigating emerging funding models and putting them through their paces.
Nycz discussed the firm's other initiatives, including their $150,000 convertible note program for accelerator graduates, and investment in a cluster of six accelerators, including FounderFuel and Execution Labs. i was surprised to hear that such a large firm would trifle with a comparatively piddly amount of money like $150,000, and asked whether it wasn't a move to squeeze early-stage angel investors out of the action?
"It's not replacing," Nycz assured me; "it's more complementing the know-how and the resources that angels bring to the discussion."
BDC's investment in Canadian startups goes beyond purely monetary support. Nycz described the firm's partnership with the C100, which helps Canadian entrepreneurs get a foot in the door of Silicon Valley corporations like Cisco, Google, Facebook and IBM, by leveraging the influence of Canadian expats who are already on the inside. It's like the Trojan horse of Canadian entrepreneurship, except it's more like a Trojan beaver, and it tastes of maple syrup.
We played a version of "Hot or Not" for the investment world, which allowed Nycz to peg an area where he saw a lot of growth happening, and one sector that's cooling off. Nycz's "Hot" choice was the general intersection of new technology and traditional sectors. He gave the example of mobile communications and health, for example health ID technology that would enable doctors to have accessible, live data on their patients.
Nycz also predicted we'd see some necromancy in the telecom sector, which he described as "dead" (with a low level of investment), but coming back, due to a need in that sector to beef up download speeds to meet rising demand.
When asked to pick a company to highlight from BDC's portfolio, Nycz points to D-Wave. The company, which received investment dollars from BDC back in 2002, has developed a ludicrously speedy quantum computer that has, until now, been the stuff of science fiction—more specifically, Spaceballs. With a 512-qubit processor, this thing's gone to plaid. The important question, of course, is can it run Crysis?
BDC invests $160 million each year in venture capital funds each year in Canada's entrepreneurship ecosystem. With that kind of scratch being funneled into Canadian innovation in 2014, rest assured Techvibes will have reading material to spare to float you cozily into next year's Canadian Startup Awards.